DEAR ABBY: My friend dated someone I’ll call “Joel” a few times. She said he was nice, but she couldn’t get past the fact that he’s 27 and still lives at home with his mom. He is also rather shy.

I ran into Joel a couple of months ago. We started chatting and I ended up asking him out. Abby, he’s a great guy. He’s good-looking, has a steady job, drives a new truck and has money in the bank. He calls when he says he will and never “forgets” his wallet at home. He always insists on paying for dates, and he’s a good cook. And to top it off – his mom is amazing!

I have never been happier, but now my so-called friend is angry with me. Now she is telling people that I “took” Joel away from her. (She had already told him she wasn’t interested in him when I asked him out.) I’m losing a friend, but there is no way I’m giving him up. Maybe this will serve as a warning to other women. Don’t count a man out because one or two things bother you. Look carefully at the whole picture before you judge someone. – HAPPY IN THE MIDWEST

Amen! Many a jewel has gone undiscovered until it was spotted by someone who recognized the “real thing” when she – or he – saw it. In this case, it was you. Enjoy.

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law is a nice person and we usually get along fine, but there are things that my husband and I feel we should have in our possession that she won’t hand over. I’m talking about pictures of him when he was growing up, and a few of his favorite toys to pass on – but mostly, his birth certificate.

I’m trying my best to stay on her good side because her relationship with my husband is not very good. How can I get her to hand over the things we would like to have for our family without making it a big issue? You must know that she is super-sensitive, so this is a delicate thing. Please help. – WANTING FOR OUR FAMILY

Not knowing your mother-in-law, it’s hard to know whether her unwillingness to share the items is because of her difficult relationship with your husband, because she is sentimental or, perhaps, because she needs to feel she’s “in control.” You might have better luck if you ask her if you can have copies made of the childhood photographs. That way, her family albums won’t be depleted, and you can start some of your own.

As for the birth certificate, contact the department of records in the county in which your husband was born and request a copy. It’s done all the time, and I’m sure they’ll be pleased to oblige.

Your husband’s toys are another matter. While they probably do belong with him, there may be a reason why she can’t let them go. Continue to tread carefully.

DEAR ABBY: What do you think about the social acceptability of brushing one’s teeth in a public restroom? I’m sure it makes no difference what type of place the restroom is in, but I’m thinking of an informal restaurant – one where you order food at the counter and carry it on a tray.

I’m concerned about oral health, and I’d like to brush after eating out, but I don’t want to offend anyone. – WONDERING IN ST. PAUL

DEAR WONDERING: Wonder no more. Brushing your teeth in a public restroom is acceptable as long as you make certain that the sink you were using is rinsed perfectly clean afterward.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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