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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: We have a large candy jar in our office that is kept filled by the people who eat the candy. All the secretaries contribute regularly.

Our problem is one of the executives. She scoops out candy by the handful every time she passes the jar, but has never contributed a dime! She has been "reminded" several times, but she continues to ignore our requests.

We've even tried letting the jar remain empty for several days, but she just waits until we refill it, then she cleans it out again. This is creating a lot of resentment -- as well as expense -- for those of us who can least afford it. (Her salary is more than all the secretaries combined.)

Abby, we don't want to penalize everyone else by doing away with the candy jar, but we can't afford to continue feeding this moocher. What should we do? -- SWEET DILEMMA IN TULSA

DEAR SWEET DILEMMA: Shame on her. Her "perks" as an executive should not extend to the employees' snacks. Pool your money for a stash of candy that remains out of sight -- and leave the jar empty.

DEAR ABBY: I made a big mistake. I got involved with a married man at work. Everyone in town knows about it, and I'm embarrassed and ashamed.

His wife has filed for divorce and his kids aren't speaking to him. He told me his wife didn't understand him and she drank too much. I recently found out that I was not his first affair.

I wish it had never happened, but now I feel obligated to stand by him because he's alone and it's partly my fault. He says he loves me and has no one else. I feel trapped, even though I don't really love him.

I'd quit my job tomorrow, but I'm a middle-aged single parent and jobs are hard to find. Any suggestions? -- SORRY, LONELY AND DESPERATE

DEAR SORRY: Yes. Don't compound your mistake by staying with a man you don't love. The relationship will be easier to end if you make a clean break.

Start looking for another job now. This married man is not your responsibility; he has found "someone" more than once, and he probably will again. Trust me.

DEAR ABBY: "Hurting in Whittier," age 45 with wrinkles, complains that men prefer younger women. Tell her that she IS a younger woman to men in their 50s, 60s and beyond.

Mature men have learned that as a woman ages, she becomes increasingly attractive. She gains more in wisdom, empathy and kindness than she loses in appearance. And, of course, men similarly improve.

"Hurting" is shopping in the wrong age bracket. -- VOLNEY V. BROWN JR., RETIRED JUDGE, DANA POINT, CALIF.

DEAR JUDGE BROWN: Whether you're ruling from a bench in a courtroom or a bench in a park, you have rendered an enlightened opinion. It takes keen vision to see past the surface to the core of what's important. (And they say that "Justice is blind"!)

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY MUSLIM READERS: Happy Eid Al-Adha.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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