Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Daughter Tries to Speak Up and Gets Shot Down by Mom

DEAR ABBY: This is to comment on your advice to "Emotionally Bruised," whose mother is super-critical. Do not assume that a calm, mature approach will make a difference. Years ago, I read advice similar to your reply to her in a magazine.

"Mom," I said, at an appropriate moment, "it hurts me when you say things like that." She gave me one of her exasperated sighs, and glared at me. "You were always so sensitive!" she said.

It is well known that the abuser turns the fault back onto the victim. Now my sister -- less sensitive, I guess -- wonders why I don't feel guilt for my absence. -- STILL BRUISED IN WASHINGTON

DEAR STILL BRUISED: That letter touched a nerve with many readers, who felt my answer did not go far enough. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Although you were right that "Emotionally Bruised" should tell her mother how she feels, it may not resolve the problem. I followed that advice, and what followed was Mom calling me for several days, crying and saying I had "misinterpreted" what she had said. The same pattern occurred again and again. If I spoke up, the crying began.

Sometimes you have to protect yourself from your own mother. You may have to accept that she will never change, so distance yourself. No one should have to take abuse. Continue to visit, but when she starts her lectures, say, "Sorry, Mom, I have to go," then make your exit and don't look back. -- FREER AND HAPPIER NOW

DEAR FREER: Call me an optimist, but I thought confronting the offending parent and explaining how the criticisms made her feel might be enough. There is no "one size fits all" answer to a problem like this, because some families are more dysfunctional than others. However, I would recommend avoiding the parent only as a last resort. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My mother also constantly insulted me. I never lived up to her standards. She disliked my friends, one in particular because her brother had gotten into trouble. My girlfriend never got into trouble. I never did, either. I never even smoked or drank.

I was always told that I'd be a failure and would never graduate from high school. Not only did I graduate, but I went on to two business schools, and was on the President's List and the honor roll.

When I met the man I eventually married, Mom hated him and made no bones about it. She tried to break us up whenever we visited her, and called on the telephone and tried to start something. When I learned it was impossible for me to have children, she blamed me for it. She said if I lost weight, I would be able to give her grandkids. I never could convince her otherwise.

My mother was always "disowning" me. Many times I tried to keep us together, but one day, I'd had it. She disowned me -- and I never went back. Since then, my life has improved dramatically. For the first time in my life, I had peace. I used to do a lot of crying, but that stopped, too.

Mother is dead now, and finally we are both at peace. -- FREE AT LAST IN VIRGINIA

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600