DEAR ABBY: I am an educated woman in my late 20s. I have been married for several years to a wonderful man, and we were recently blessed with our first child.
Since our wedding, my relationship with my mother-in-law has been an evolving one. Since the inception of "Desperate Housewives" on TV, she seems to believe she's a character on the show. She trots around in revealing clothing looking like a streetwalker. She spends most of her time gossiping with her newfound buddies who are half her age, and who seem to delight in dressing her up to make her the talk of the town.
As a little girl, when I dreamed of how my life would be as a married woman, it was never like this. My dreams never included a MIL who enjoys seeing people look at her in disbelief as she struts across the room. I don't want this to be an example for my daughter. Confronting her doesn't work -- she responds with guilt and mockery. In other words, she always wins. I'm at a loss and have given up trying to figure her out. Please help. -- DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE
DEAR DESPERATE: As an educated woman, it's time for you to smarten up and accept your mother-in-law for the "character" she is -- warts and all. You were wrong to expect her to fulfill the fantasy role you created for her. She's not ready to do it -- and she may never be.
The way she dresses will not influence your daughter; you will do that. Your mother-in-law's attire is a reflection only on her, not you. Remember that. If she is so youthful in spirit that she has been accepted by a younger group of women, stop judging her and perhaps even learn from it. She's not over the hill yet. So stop trying to push her there, and you'll both be happier.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Joe," and I have been married for 12 years. I have a daughter from a previous marriage and he has a son from a previous relationship. My daughter is married and lives in another state.
My 22-year-old stepson, "Junior," lives with us. He has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and has stolen from us. I recently discovered that another item of mine was missing. I told Joe it has to stop -- that I can't live like a prisoner in my own home. Joe will not kick Junior out of the house. Joe said he would leave, but that he won't put Junior out on the street like a dog.
Our marriage was solid until Junior's problems started a year ago. I'd never ask my husband to make a choice. Junior is his son. I, on the other hand, feel like a stranger in my own home. We barely speak now and have been sleeping in separate rooms. I am at a loss. Abby, have you any advice? -- STRANGER IN MY OWN HOME
DEAR STRANGER: Yes. You and your husband should consult a therapist who specializes in treating addictions. Your husband loves his son, but he is enabling him to continue using by turning a blind eye to his stealing and not enforcing consequences. Sometimes love has to be tough. Because your marriage has deteriorated to the point that you no longer speak or share a bedroom, recognize that you must look out for your own welfare because your husband seems unwilling or unable to.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)