Dear Abby: As a teenager, for kicks I would randomly call women at night and ask to speak to their husbands. If the wife said he wasn't there, I would pretend to be the husband's lover, saying he was supposed to have told her about me.

Most of the time it didn't work, but one young woman believed me. She began crying and said, "We've been married for only one year; now I know why he tells me he has to work late."I hung up without confessing that it was a stunt, immediately regretting what I had done, but I couldn't call back to make amends because I didn't remember which number I had called.

Abby, the damage I may have caused haunts me to this day. I sincerely wish I could take back what I did.

- Regretting Past Mistakes

Dear Regretting: Since there is nothing you can do to change the past, perhaps you can ease your conscience by doing a good deed. I have a suggestion: Volunteer to mentor a teenage girl who could benefit from the friendship of a caring, mature adult. There are many out there who need it.

Dear Abby: Please help me settle this argument. My husband, who thinks he knows everything, keeps insisting that the forks and spoons should be placed in the basket of the dishwasher with the sharpest point of the utensils facing upward. I say that the utensils should be facing down, so that when they are removed from the dishwasher they can be grabbed by the handles. Will you please settle this?

- Frustrated in Denver

Dear Frustrated: Your husband is wrong. The utensils should be loaded into the dishwasher with the points facing down, which prevents them from poking or cutting the person who is unloading the machine. It also keeps the eating surfaces cleaner if they're grasped by the handles.

P.S. If this is all you and your husband disagree on, I would say you have a marvelous marriage.

Dear Abby: I enjoyed the letter in your column from "Waiting With Baited Hook in Nevada."

As a divorced, 45-year-old, overweight woman with three teenagers, I had attended church-sponsored activities for years, including dances. None of the men was interested in me.

When I started taking my 14-year-old son to a one-eighth-scale, live steam-engine train park last summer, I began to volunteer my time. The outdoor setting was beautiful, the people were friendly, and it was surprisingly fun. It didn't take long for a divorced man to strike up a conversation, and within six months we were married!

I found out by happenstance that what you suggested works: Look where men spend their free time, and enjoy the same wholesome activities.

- Lucky in Oregon

Dear Lucky: I'm delighted to hear about your happy outcome. Sometimes we make our own "luck" - and I think you "engineered" yours beautifully.

Dear Abby: I read with interest the letter in your column from "I'd Rather Be Alone." I agree with what you and she said, but I was disappointed that you let her get away with saying there are far too many verbally abusive HUSBANDS out there. Out of fairness, there are too many abusive PEOPLE. It is a stereotype to think that only men are abusive.

I was in a verbally abusive marriage for 11 years. My wife would yell, scream and swear at me in front of our children. When I tried to leave the house, she would block the door with her body and tell me I couldn't leave. She would belittle me, call me names and berate me for things that she had done.

Years of counseling did not help. She was powerless to change her behavior, and I finally had to file for divorce. Please, Abby, it's not always the man who is the abuser.

- Alone and Recovering

in Oregon

Dear Alone and Recovering: If I implied that only males are verbally abusive, I apologize, for that was not my intention. A pattern of verbal abuse is far more serious than an occasional lapse of temper; it's about controlling one's partner. It's intended to drain the victim of confidence, and its volume increases so that the victim is thrown off balance and reeling from emotional battering. If abusive behavior cannot be resolved with therapy, the sensible solution is to end the relationship - as you did.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

1997 Universal Press Syndicate

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All of the Dear Abby columns for the past several years are available online. Search for "DEAR ABBY" in the Lifestyle section and the Deseret News archives.