WIFE NEEDS TO LEAVE ABUSIVE PAST BEHIND

DEAR ABBY: I'm 42 years old and in my second marriage. My first husband was very abusive. My second loves me, respects me, defends me and has brought out the best in me. But I don't feel like I do the same for him.

Things will get good in our relationship, and then I will lose perspective again, which causes conflict. How do I fix that? How do I find it again, and the sex drive I have lost? I'm so happy. He makes me just glow at times.

- Trying to find myself

DEAR TRYING: The best place to find your perspective would be on the couch of a licensed mental health therapist. It appears you may have brought the baggage from your first marriage into this one. It's not unusual for people who have been in abusive relationships to have emotional scars. Start interviewing now, and don't stop until you find someone you are comfortable confiding in.

Friend is always late

DEAR ABBY: I have a dear friend I met at work three years ago. She's African-American. We have lunch or coffee almost weekly. She always arrives late for our get-togethers, but lately it's become too much. She has made me wait 40 minutes to an hour rather than the usual 10 to 20 minutes. When I show my frustration, she says she is on BPT (Black People Time).

I have tried adopting her lifestyle of being late, but it makes me anxious because I am a very prompt person. I have heard comedians talk about BPT, but I know not all black people do this because I work with others who are considerate of other people's time. Any suggestions?

- Lady in waiting

DEAR LADY IN WAITING: What your friend is doing is showing a lack of respect not only for your time but also for your feelings. The next time you arrange to see her, warn her that in the future you will wait no more than 15 minutes, and if she doesn't show up, you will leave. Then do it. If seeing you is important to her, she'll manage to get there. If not, you will know you need to make arrangements with other friends for coffee and lunch.

A real tall tale

DEAR ABBY: At an amusement park recently, I was unable to win the woman I'm dating the oversized stuffed giraffe she desired. I tried valiantly, but winning wasn't in the cards for me. She forgave me, but I'm afraid she harbors more resentment than she let on. Since then her behavior has been peculiar. She emails me pictures of giraffes, stretches her neck to frightening lengths, and got a giraffe tattoo that extends from her wrist to her shoulder.

I know the ability to win a stuffed animal for a lover is a potent measure of a man's worth. My failure has left my masculinity sagging. Is there anything I can do to reaffirm my manhood and salvage my relationship? Or should I troll the avenues of Manhattan in search of a lady whose faith I have not shattered?

- Prizeless in New York

DEAR PRIZELESS: Do not troll the avenues hunting for a woman you won't disillusion. New York has several zoos; if you take your girlfriend to visit a real, live giraffe, it may raise your standing.

I'm often asked if I can spot a fake letter. So I'm taking the opportunity to wish both of you a happy April Fools' Day!