Dear Abby: Abusive dad’s new weapon — letters full of subtle insults

At 89, he writes nice things about some people as a way of highlighting the flaws of others.

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DEAR ABBY: I could use some advice on the best response to my 89-year-old father’s letters. He cleverly inserts insults into them without writing anything for which he could be criticized.

For example, he has always talked about how he hates fat people. I am very overweight. My father sends me letters talking about how fit and trim another relative is who had just visited. That’s all he says about them, and it’s all he writes to me about. I can certainly read between the lines.

This isn’t a one-time thing, just one example. I know my father will never change. He was abusive to me, my siblings and my mother. I see these letters as another way for him to continue his abuse, so I ignore them. Not engaging is my way of taking the high road. Extended family and friends bug me to talk with him about it, but I have never had a good experience with talking to my father.

I would have hoped that being closer to death would cause him to reconsider his interactions with his children, but he just isn’t able to do so. Could you recommend a response other than silence? — READING INTO IT IN ILLINOIS

DEAR READING INTO IT: As a matter of fact, I can. Write him back and say something like this:

”Dear Dad, you may have been wondering why I don’t respond to your letters. They contain nothing more than comparisons to other relatives who are skinnier and more fit than I am, and frankly, I find them painful to read. I am not writing this as a criticism of you, but only so you will understand my silence.


”Your Daughter ‘Judy’ ”

You do not have to talk to him. This should get your message across.

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend who is divorced and struggling financially, but doesn’t work other than sporadic pet-sitting jobs. I enjoy her company and we have a lot in common, but when we go on outings together, she expects me to drive and pay for her drinks and food if she doesn’t have enough money. She doesn’t own a credit card.

I’m starting to feel resentful and like I’m being taken advantage of. She thanks me sometimes, but I think she feels that because I am financially comfortable and she isn’t, I should be a good friend and help her out. I really want to discuss the situation with her, but I am afraid of coming across as stingy and uncaring. What are your thoughts? — USED IN ALABAMA

DEAR USED: I have to take issue with your signature. You are not being used; you have been ALLOWING yourself to be used. It would be neither stingy nor uncaring to ask before making a date to go out together whether she has the money to pay her way. If the answer is no, suggest doing something that doesn’t involve money or that’s within her budget — unless you want to treat her. But treating her should not be expected, any more than any other gift would be.

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

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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