DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: Our stepmother forces my brother, who's in Grade 12, to make dinner for the family, as he is the only one who isn't working. He is a good cook. He just hates the way she belittles his cooking and criticizes everything he cooks to show off to our father. "This is tasteless. You should have used such-and-such a spice and it would have been much better." She enjoys humiliating him. Last night he told me he insists on "plating" the dinners like he sees on TV because he spits in her dinner. I know he hates her, but this has really upset me. What can I do that won't make it worse? What if he starts spitting in my dinner? -- Scared of His Temper, Winnipeg
Dear Scared: You need a family meeting. Call it yourself. Your brother needs to get a job or go live with his mother, if possible, because he feels mentally and emotionally bullied by his stepmother. He and your stepmom should not be under the same roof. Unless your father is violent towards your brother, you might want to have a private talk with him first. Ask him to go for a drive with you alone or meet you for a coffee and tell him your brother is at a tipping point, mentally, and needs to get out of there and needs therapy. Why is your father sitting by while his son is humiliated at dinner by his new wife? If any readers have ideas for this difficult problem, please write to the address below and answers will be published in an upcoming column.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: My young aunt (my mom's little sister) drops over from next door every morning for coffee, when she knows my husband will be getting out of the shower and going to work. She has the nerve to makes sideways comments about the "big man in the little towel." And he's not much better. He likes the attention. He could put on a robe to walk around, but he doesn't. I accused him of flirting back, and he said, "Nonsense, you have nothing to worry about." I have plenty to worry about! She is built like a Spanish movie star we all know. I look more like Ugly Betty. And things will get real ugly around here if I tell her to take a hike. Help! -- Feeling Threatened, The Maples
Dear Threatened: Stand up and fight for your man. Things are going to get a thousand times uglier if you don't kick your young aunt out of your marriage. She has her hot little foot in the door already, and needs to get it slammed -- hard. Tell her she's not allowed to come over until your husband is showered and out of the house, because that is private time. If she comes over anyway -- she will probably try it once -- tell her through the door to go home. That door stays locked. When you first deliver the warning by phone, wait until you get a few juicy quotes to relay to your mother, who will help kick up a fuss. Your young aunt knows very well what she's up to, so don't let her play dumb. Appeal to your mom to help set her straight, as she is definitely trying to make trouble, which will impact the whole family. By the way, do you have to live next door to this little siren? Consider a geographic cure.