DEAR ABBY: From time to time, my husband and I are asked by some friends to dine out with them. However, the wife does some things that make us very uncomfortable. She prides herself on being friendly and outgoing. When we're in a restaurant, she'll go from table to table and engage in conversations with people she doesn't know. She'll ask where they're from, what they've ordered, etc. Once, she eavesdropped while the people at the next table discussed what they were ordering and gave them her opinion on what they should "really" order. It progressed to her joining them for a short time at their table for further conversation.
While I appreciate that she's trying to impress us, it embarrasses my husband and me. How do we handle the situation without telling her, making her feel bad and putting a strain on our friendship? We don't enjoy dining out with them like we used to. Are we overreacting, or is this bad manners? -- MORTIFIED IN SALT LAKE CITY
DEAR MORTIFIED: If you and your husband are dinner guests, the lady should be devoting her attention to you and not the other diners in the restaurant. To leave you and go table-hopping is rude. However, to call her on it would be equally rude. So, because you don't enjoy dining out with them the way you used to, do it less often and it will be less upsetting.
DEAR ABBY: How can we convince our married daughter with children to seek a separation or divorce from her husband, who is physically, mentally and economically abusive to her and the kids? We believe she's suffering from low self-esteem, depression and other issues she can't resolve with him.
She has had to borrow what little money we can spare to buy food, school clothing and other basics. Her husband believes she should be working, taking care of an infant and an older child, paying for day care, half the bills and mortgage. Abby, this man has an income in the lower six figures!
We suggested therapy, but it was ignored. He blames everything on her. There is so much more to this story, but it would take up 10 of your columns. Please help. -- DESPERATE DAD IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR DESPERATE: A lawyer could point out to your daughter that she lives in a community property state, and half of what her husband has accumulated during the marriage is hers. A social worker could warn her that abuse doesn't remain static, that it can escalate to violence if it hasn't already. Statistics could illustrate that men who abuse their wives often go on to abuse their children. There is much that could be done, but not until or unless your daughter is willing to admit to herself that she is the victim of spousal abuse and take action.
DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law, "Kay" -- who is in her 50s -- dresses like she's in her teens or 20s. Don't get me wrong, she looks great. She exercises several hours a day to keep in shape and follows a strict diet.
Kay wears spaghetti-strap shirts and short skirts in the summer, and bikinis to sunbathe. I understand that she wants to show off her body, but is there a way to direct her to more age-appropriate clothing? Or am I in the wrong here? -- PRIM AND PROPER IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR PRIM AND PROPER: You are well-intentioned, but if you are wise, you will refrain from giving your mother-in-law any unasked-for fashion advice. How she dresses is her business, not yours, and I seriously doubt your comments would be welcomed.
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)