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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have recently started seeing a wonderful man who is divorced. It doesn't bother me. I know we all make mistakes. My friends are telling me I need to find out why his marriage ended, because it might signal potential problems to watch out for. I understand their logic.

The problem is, I don't want to appear nosy and, of course, I would be hearing only one side of the story. So should I ask him or not -- and if so, when and how? -- INQUIRING MINDS NEED TO KNOW

DEAR INQUIRING: I see no harm in asking now. The perfect time to have done it was when he told you he was divorced. You don't have to be heavy-handed about it. Treat him to -- or cook him -- a nice dinner and afterward say, "So tell me how come a gorgeous, intelligent man like you is divorced. Your ex must have been out of her mind to let you go." Then shut up and listen.

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter's landlady -- I'll call her Martha -- has become very close to our family. Martha and her husband are included in most of our family's social events.

My problem is Martha is allergic to garlic and cannot eat anything cooked with it.

Abby, we are Italian. We grew up eating garlic and cook just about everything with it. My husband and I are locking horns over the fact that I feel it's an imposition to be expected to accommodate one person by omitting a key ingredient in a dish. When you're cooking for a lot of people who are accustomed to the way certain foods are prepared, I feel it is inconsiderate for someone to expect me to leave an ingredient out. What do you think? -- MAMA "MIA" IN N.Y.

DEAR MAMA "MIA": I think you should prepare a garlic-free extra dish for Martha -- something not too difficult to make, like a salad -- or invite Martha over less often.

DEAR ABBY: How does a person find direction? Career counselors have told me that I need "direction," but they never tell me how to go about getting it.

I'm in my late 20s with two degrees and no specific job skills. I have had a few crummy jobs. I'm not afraid of hard work, but I don't know what sort of job I should be seeking.

I spent 10 years trying the touchy-feely "just follow your dreams" approach. Well, my dreams are to be financially independent and have a meaningful personal and intellectual life!

Is there another approach? How do I find a job that fits me? Perfect would be great, but at this point, I'm just shooting for good enough. -- UNDIRECTED IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR UNDIRECTED: The career counselors you consulted should have given you enough direction that it stimulated your thinking about ways to apply the knowledge you have worked so hard to earn. With their help you should have been able to identify some area of the profession you prepared for that would enable you to be financially independent. Because that didn't happen, I recommend you look further for career counseling because it appears the ones you consulted did a poor job.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)