DEAR ABBY: I'm a single mother, raising a 14-year-old daughter, "Cheryl." Recently, Cheryl has started going through my things while I am not at home. A couple of times she has found things of a sexual nature -- pictures and marital aids -- that I had thought were well hidden.
How do I address these matters without discussing the content in depth? We have discussions about a lot of things, but I must admit I'm embarrassed about this. However, I want to discuss this with Cheryl before she tells someone about what she found and gets misinformation. -- BLUSHING IN CHICAGO
DEAR BLUSHING: Your daughter is old enough to understand the concept of privacy -- and that includes not going through your things without permission, or discussing your private life with her contemporaries. Since you now know what she does in your absence, keep your personal items under lock and key.
If Cheryl questions you about the items she found, explain to her that they are sometimes used by adults. If she wants to know more, answer her questions honestly. And while you're at it, be sure your daughter knows that if she has further questions in the future, she's welcome to come to you with them, and you will be sure she gets correct answers.
DEAR ABBY: I'm having trouble dealing with my Aunt "Marge." She disapproves of the fact that my husband, "Keith," is 40 and I'm 33. Aunt Marge says I should have married someone my age -- or no more than a year or two older -- because SHE likes men her own age. Also, SHE prefers dark-haired men, so she keeps asking me why I married a blonde.
Keith earns enough so that I can stay at home with our two children. Aunt Marge says I'm selfish to make him carry the financial burden alone. (Neither Keith nor I feel there's anything selfish about it.) What's peculiar is, Aunt Marge has always been a homemaker. She hasn't worked a day since she married Uncle Steve. Also, she constantly asks my husband if he's saving the money he earns, and what we do with it.
Aunt Marge stops by unexpectedly a lot, usually at night. If I'm wearing my robe and nightgown, she demands to know why. Then she asks why I took my shower so long before bedtime. She also constantly criticizes the way I wear my hair.
Aunt Marge gets upset because, when Keith is home, we screen our calls. I've explained that it's to avoid telemarketers, but if we don't pick up, she says in a rude tone, "I don't want to leave a message. Pick up the phone NOW!"
Abby, she's a good person in other ways, but she has always had a habit of criticizing and being too quick to judge. Do Keith and I have reason to be offended, or should we just accept that she is who she is, ignore her, and not say anything? -- GETTING FED UP IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR FED UP: If no one has pointed out to Aunt Marge that it's rude to ask people what they do with their money, to drop by unannounced, to give unsolicited advice about personal grooming, and to demand instant gratification when she calls, now is the time. It won't change her, but perhaps it will cause her to stop for a moment and think.
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