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DEAR ABBY: My mother is a narcissist and a user. She has never held down a job and blames everyone else. We rarely get along for more than 15 minutes at a time.

I used to blame myself, but have realized over the years that I'm not alone in how I feel about her. The problem is, she doesn't realize her behavior is unacceptable. If you try to address it, it causes an argument. She has no idea that she has alienated herself from our family and has no friends. She loves me and I love her, but I can't stand to be around her.

I'm an only child. Because of the way she is there is no one else in her life. I'm responsible for 99 percent of her social interactions outside of work. What do I do? She says that because she has no savings, she will be moving in with me when she's older. The idea of taking care of her until she dies keeps me up at night.

Part of me wants a relationship with my mother -- more for her sake than for mine -- but she's toxic. How do I handle her now and as she ages? I feel like a terrible person for feeling this way, but it's causing me increasing anxiety. -- DISTRESSED DAUGHTER IN WISCONSIN

DEAR DAUGHTER: You are responsible for your mother's social life because you have placed yourself in that position. The person responsible for her social life as well as her financial situation is her, not you.

It is time to tell your mother she had better start putting money away for her old age because she will not be moving in with you. To take care of yourself does not make you a terrible person, so do not allow anyone to tell you that it does.


DEAR ABBY: I need advice on how to approach a friend, "Sarah," about a sensitive topic. She's pretty, but she dresses sloppily. Her pants are so loose they slip off her waist, her shirts are too tight and short, and she never wears makeup or jewelry.

I'd like to take her shopping for clothes that fit her better, especially as she has started looking for a new job and will need appropriate clothes for an interview. However, Sarah's a bit on the large side and sensitive about it, so she doesn't like shopping with others and refuses our offers to help. She also gets offended if someone points out that her clothes don't fit.

I don't want her wardrobe to impede her interviews, and I think she could benefit from a new look. How can I gently offer to go clothes-shopping with her so I can help her find nice clothes without offending her? -- FASHIONISTA IN NEW ENGLAND

DEAR FASHIONISTA: How is your friend doing in that job search? If she tells you it's not going well, that would be the time to offer your help. But do not approach the subject from a grooming perspective, which Sarah could regard as insulting. Instead, approach it from the job attire angle. Suggest she could make a better impression if she "dressed for success," and volunteer to help her pick out some things.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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