DEAR ABBY: Have you any tips on how to deal with an emotional bully? My mother-in-law is insulting, but sneaky about it. She insists that she's "just trying to help." If I speak up, she says, "Why are you being so sensitive?" or, "I'm just being honest." She has criticized my parenting skills and chiseled away at my self-esteem more times than I can count.
Because she's my mother-in-law, it isn't easy to get away. I try to keep busy during holidays and family visits so she won't be able to catch up with me and insult me.
Defending myself doesn't help. If I try, she turns a deaf ear. I need some strong, but polite, comments to get her to back off. Please help. -- UNDER ATTACK IN WEST VIRGINIA
DEAR UNDER ATTACK: Two can play the game of selective deafness. Has it occurred to you to simply tune the woman out? Just because a jackass brays does not mean you have to take the noise to heart.
If, however, you feel compelled to respond, then straighten your posture, look her in the eye and say, "Then I'm going to be honest with you, too. I'm doing the best I can. Your comments are hurtful, and unless you stop criticizing me, I'm going to spend more time with MY family during the holidays. Got it?" If that doesn't slow her down, do yourself a favor and follow through.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 64-year-old woman who is proud to be Jewish. I know there is still anti-Semitism in the world. We go to Mexico every winter, and the number of Jewish people in our community there is very small.
At home I wear a Star of David on a chain around my neck, but when we're in Mexico, I feel self-conscious about it. We belong to a large organization in Mexico that is comprised of non-Jews. Should I wear it, and possibly be shunned because I'm Jewish, or leave it at home?
I know this may seem like a silly question, but I don't want to be discriminated against because I'm a Jew, yet I am proud of my heritage. Should I wear it in Mexico or not? -- RACHAEL IN BUFFALO GROVE, ILL.
DEAR RACHAEL: Your question isn't at all silly. Religion is supposed to be a positive force. Those who use religion as an excuse to shun others are bigots.
You say you are proud of being Jewish. Your Star of David is part of who you are, so wear it. If people avoid you because of your religion, they weren't sincere friends to begin with, nor are they nice people, and you won't have lost a thing.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 42-year-old woman who has been married for 16 years to a good man. My husband doesn't drink, smoke, run around or even curse. He's a good father and sometimes helps me with housework.
So please tell me why I cannot stand him anymore -- his voice, his laugh and anything about him. I just want out, and I don't know why. I work many hours of overtime just so I won't have to go home. Please tell me what's wrong with me. -- WANTING TO BE FREE
DEAR WANTING: You appear to have fallen out of love with your husband, or have forgotten what attracted you to him in the first place. You could also be having a midlife crisis.
The answer is not to run away or hide out at the office, but to remember why you married him and examine what's going on in your head, with professional help if necessary. Forgive the cliche, but the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes it's poison ivy.
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