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by Abigail Van Buren

Daughter Cringes When Mom Does Happy Dance in Public

DEAR ABBY: I am an 11-year-old girl who loves going shopping and doing various stuff with my mom. But when we go to the mall or stop for lunch and she hears a song she likes, she'll start singing to it. And if we're standing up, she even dances to it a little.

I have tried telling her to stop because she's embarrassing me, but all she says is, "No one is looking, honey." She also does it at home in front of my friends when I play my iPod. Any suggestions? -- BLUSHING IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR BLUSHING: Your problem is one that has been shared by generations of young people. You have reached an age when image is becoming important to you, and you're afraid that your mother's behavior will reflect badly on you. It won't.

Rather than be embarrassed, please consider how lucky you are to have an upbeat, music-loving mother with a sense of rhythm and some knowledge of the lyrics. (If she has forgotten, be a sweetheart and offer to teach her.) I have it on good authority that an "old dog" can learn new tricks.

DEAR ABBY: After 30 years of marriage I still don't know how to tell my wife she can't cook. I came home tonight to find an expensive piece of meat I had been looking forward to eating reduced to shoe leather.

In our golden years, we will be able to afford to splurge on expensive cuts of meat, etc., only rarely. It is disappointing to have to toss it into the garbage.

I never encouraged my wife to cook, and usually the pressure of work distracts her. But she has been "surprising" me more often with "delicacies" on her days off.

I dread retirement. How can I nicely ask her not to go to the trouble of preparing these disastrous dishes? -- WANTS TO BE TACTFUL

DEAR WANTS: Who has been doing the cooking in your household all these years -- or have the two of you been eating out? Because you can't bring yourself to tell your wife her cooking skills need improvement, allow me to offer an alternative. Sign the two of you up for nighttime cooking classes so she can brush up on her culinary skills and, if necessary, you can take over the role of family chef after you retire. Bon appetit!

DEAR ABBY: My parents divorced when I was 15. It was nasty. My mother, in an act of desperation, dragged me into it. I was placed in foster care until her allegations were looked into and found to be false.

I held a grudge for 10 years. During that time I was bitter, angry, shy, anxious, scared -- overall, just a mess. I finally realized that until I addressed those feelings, it would affect all aspects of my life.

At 25, I am finally trying to have a relationship with my mother. It has been hard. There are some things from the past that I cannot forget, and I find it difficult to let go of my anger and resentment.

I'd like to write a book about my experience as a guide to forgiving and moving on, but if I do, I would not be able to hide my identity or my mother's. Is it realistic to write a self-help book without the world knowing it's my family I'm talking about? I'm longing to help others. -- ASPIRING WRITER IN ILLINOIS

DEAR ASPIRING WRITER: It can be done. I can think of two ways to accomplish what you have in mind. The first would be to write the story as fiction. The second would be to adopt a pen name. Whether or not your story turns out to be a best seller, the experience would be cathartic.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)