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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My in-laws are making my life miserable. They still believe that the man is the head of the household and that women should be subservient at all times.

My husband and I are both college graduates with successful careers, but they continue to treat us like children. They order us to do something, then pout when we don't obey. They stopped speaking to us for weeks when we decided to buy a modest home against their wishes (even though we could easily afford it). They are convinced that we are unable to manage our own finances and household (especially me). I've actually been ordered to quit my job and stay home to take care of my husband (we don't have any kids yet). Luckily, my husband agrees that this is my decision to make, not theirs.

We have tried discussing this rationally as adults, but they start yelling or lecturing. They have now decided they want us to give them control of our finances if anything should happen to my husband because they believe a man should be in control. They also want full custody of any children we might have. Up until now, I've bitten my tongue, but I'm ready to explode. I don't want to alienate my in-laws by getting into a screaming match, but I've reached the end of my rope. How should I handle this? -- STEAMING IN DALLAS

DEAR STEAMING: Your in-laws' values are firmly rooted in another century. Don't allow them to intimidate you or draw you into an argument.

Assuming that you and your husband have already prepared a legal document that would protect each other and any children in case of a tragedy, you are under no obligation to discuss it or disclose its contents to anyone.

DEAR ABBY: I read with interest your column about the mother who gets all kinds of comments about the number of children she has. She asked if she should respond to these often rude remarks.

My wife and I are blessed with triplets. We too get many comments when we are out in public -- some nice and some seemingly rude. We feel enormously fortunate to have three healthy children, and we soon learned that our attitude makes all the difference in the world. We ignore some remarks, but we take others as an opportunity to tell people how blessed we are.

My favorite response when someone sees our triplets and says, "I'm glad it's you and not me," is one my wife came up with. She replies, "I'm also glad it's me and not you!" -- TRIPLY BLESSED IN ALABAMA

DEAR TRIPLY BLESSED: My congratulations to your wife. Her response is inspired.

DEAR ABBY: I attended a bridal tea this weekend and saw something I had never seen before. I wonder, have things changed this much?

As the guests arrived, their gifts were taken from them and carried over to a display area where they were opened by assigned people and put on display, without the future bride seeing the gift at all until it was put on display.

Why would people go to the trouble of wrapping a gift with beautiful paper and ribbons on it if the bride is never to see it? I was appalled and thought this was in very poor taste. Am I wrong, or is it proper? -- CONFUSED

DEAR CONFUSED: I have never heard of this practice at traditional bridal showers. However, if the bride's family is from another culture, that might account for it. Without knowing more of the facts I cannot make a judgment.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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