Dear Abby: I'm a 30-year-old woman who has battled compulsive eating and binge eating since my teens. (Yes, I still have a weight problem.) I see a counselor and am trying to find solutions that work for me.

My problem stems from well-meaning friends and family who try to send me home with leftovers when I visit them. Because I am single, they think I would like a home-cooked meal. I politely refuse these offerings, but my hosts keep insisting I take food until I give in just to avoid additional argument.

How can I convince them I can't take the offer without offending them or revealing my "problem"?

—Stuffed in California

Dear Stuffed: It's difficult for me to believe that family and close friends are completely unaware of a problem with which you have struggled since your teens. However, if that's the case, thank these loving saboteurs and tell them you have more than enough food at home and don't want to waste anything by having more than you can use. If that doesn't deter them, offer the food to a neighbor or someone who might need or enjoy it. But under no circumstances should you bring it into your house if it will trigger a binge.

Dear Abby: For the past six months I have been dating a man I'll call "Tom." Our kids adore each other, our parents think we're a great couple, and our friends love seeing us together. There's just one problem: He's married.

Tom's wife has been locked up for some time, and neither of us ever expected to fall in love. I asked him if he planned on telling her about us, and he said, "yes," because he can't lie about it to her. We've been very open about our relationship.

Now that she's out, I can't help but wonder what I was thinking getting involved in this relationship. Don't get me wrong, Abby. I love Tom deeply, and he feels the same way. His family has been telling him for months that he's crazy if he doesn't leave her. What should I do about this?

—Needs to Know Now in Virginia

Dear Needs to Know: I can answer that in one short paragraph. Cut off all contact with Tom until he decides that his marriage is over AND files for divorce. Then ask yourself, "Is it worth the gamble to marry a man with as little character as this one has shown?" To paraphrase Stephen Stills, "If he's not with the one he loves, then he loves the one he's with!" And that kind of person is very poor husband material.

Dear Abby: At 29, I guess I could be considered a late bloomer when it comes to dating. I'm trying to figure out how it all works and how to start meeting potential partners. I'm painfully shy around men, but am considering the option of joining some kind of group activity to broaden my acquaintances.

The idea of online dating seems much less threatening, and I know couples who have met that way. However, some of my co-workers have told me that online dating would be degrading and would put me — and my emotions — at greater risk than traditional dating. What would you advise?

—Dating Rookie

Dear Dating Rookie: You should do both. Joining one or more group activities will give you a chance to polish your social skills and learn to relax around men. And considering the fact that you're starting late, it's a skill that may take a little time to acquire.

You should also check out the Internet social and dating sites. Meeting people online is not degrading, and I have not only heard from readers who met online and married, but also know personally several couples who met that way and are very happy together.

Dear Abby: What is the word on men wearing baseball caps into a fairly nice restaurant and not taking them off? I think it is rude, and ruder still for them — and women are guilty of this too — to dress like they just finished mowing the lawn. How do you feel about this?

—Dressed Up in North Carolina

Dear Dressed Up: People who wear baseball caps in upscale establishments show a lack of pride in their appearance and an ignorance of good manners. In an effort to promote business, many restaurants have relaxed or done away with their dress codes.

Because there is nothing you or I can do to change it, rather than let it ruin your dining experience, you have two choices: Direct your attention only to what's going on at your own table, or patronize a restaurant that has a stricter dress code.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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