KATHY MITCHELL AND MARCY SUGAR \ Annie's Mailbox Difficult mother-in-law needs attention



Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and my mother-in-law always has been a problem. She is pushy, nosy and very outspoken. I have tried over the years to get along with her -- buying her nice gifts, sending flowers, taking her shopping -- and I've even had her over for dinner. She always has something nasty to say.
The latest episode, Mom had to have a procedure done at our local hospital. My girlfriend was the nurse who got stuck taking care of her (three other nurses refused). She proceeded to tell my friend that her son and I spend so much money and we are so in debt, she doesn't know how we can live.
This is an absolute lie. We never have asked my in-laws for a penny. We have no children; my husband has a great job, and we just purchased a new home. I do not give my mother-in-law any financial information whatsoever, because I do not visit or call her. My husband sees his parents every week, but he, too, tells them very little about our personal life, so she makes up her own conclusions and tells stories she believes to be true.
I asked my husband to inform his mother that she should stop spreading rumors about us. He said talking to her will only make things worse. (I actually think he is afraid of her.) I am so fed up that I do not want to invite my in-laws for Christmas this year. I see them only about four times a year, even though they live 10 minutes away. How do I handle this woman with dignity and tell her to shut her big mouth? Fed Up and Disgusted
Dear Fed Up: OK, we get that Mom is not the nicest person, but you have pretty much shut her out of your life. Toss her a bone, willya?
Good relationships with difficult people take a lot of time and effort. You see Mom so rarely that you haven't had an opportunity to form a real connection. Invite her for Christmas and, oh, yes, mention that the nurse told you what she said in the hospital, and you want to reassure her that your financial situation is terrific and she has no cause to worry. That not only shares information, it also lets her know nicely that her big mouth will not go unchallenged.
Dear Annie: I'm your average teenage girl. I go to school, get good grades and have friends, but I also get teased because I haven't started shaving my legs yet. My friends have been shaving for some time, and the fact that I haven't has started to make me feel self-conscious, and I get some rather rude remarks.
I've tried talking to my mom about shaving, but she doesn't really help. Should I just pull out a razor and start on my own, or should I wait until my mom gives me permission? Hairy Legs
Dear Hairy: If you are a teenager, it's time already. Tell your mother you want to begin shaving your legs, and ask her to help you select the proper razor and give you instructions. If she ignores you, ask someone else for help -- an aunt, an adult friend, or one of your girlfriends who has been shaving for a while. If you don't want to shave, you can try cream depilatories, but teenage years are sensitive enough without being embarrassed and teased about your hairy legs. Good luck.
Dear Annie: I loved the letters about what grandchildren call the grandparents. My grandparents decided they were too sophisticated for normal names, and wanted to be called "Grandmere" and "Grandpere." Imagine their chagrin when my older brother pronounced them to be "Gongy" and "Old Gong" respectively. Those names lasted forever.
By the way, when my brother had children, they called my mother "Mumbo." You never know. Nancy in Montreal
Dear Nancy: Your grandfather must have loved being "Old Gong." We are falling down laughing.
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