DEAR ABBY:

I have a friend, "Charlene," whom I met through a local charity organization. We have many things in common, including the fact that we're both retired, and we enjoy each other's company. Charlene is slim (not skinny), very energetic and fit for her age.

The problem is, it's impossible to share a meal with her. As soon as the food is served, Charlene starts a constant commentary about "how big the portions are" and how she "couldn't possibly eat" what is before her (it doesn't matter how little is on the plate).

Often, she does actually eat most of her meal. Then the ongoing comments start about how she was such a pig, she won't be able to eat another thing all day.

I don't know if she thinks she's setting a good example (I am not slim), or if she has some psychological issues surrounding food. I am tired of this routine. Is there any way I can ask her to stop without hurting her feelings?

- Sick Of Hearing It in Idaho

DEAR SICK: I can see how sitting through repeat performances of those refrains would get old fast. Of course there's a way to get her to stop. All you have to say is, "You know, when you say that, it prevents me from enjoying MY meal, so please don't do it when you're with me."

Arguing at mom's

DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of a large family. On Sundays, some of them come over to visit me. Sometimes they'll get into arguments and get really angry.

Because this is happening in my home, what position am I to take? I was told by one of my daughters that I should not allow them to come here anymore. Because I am not involved in the argument, I don't feel I should do that.

I enjoy my daughters visiting me. I don't want to tell them they cannot come to their mother's house. What do you advise?

- Mom Of Many In The West

DEAR MOM OF MANY: You're the mother. If your family's heated arguments make you uncomfortable - and a pitched battle would qualify - you are within your rights to tell them you prefer they argue elsewhere because it upsets you. I do not advise you to exercise the "nuclear option" by banishing them from the premises, because to do so would be an overreaction.