Dear Ann Landers:

Unlike some of your over-educated readers in the Boston area, I enjoy your "how we met" stories. Mine is different. It's the story of how I met the wrong man. There's a lesson here, and I hope you will print my letter. Maybe it will be of help to some other vulnerable woman. I wish I had seen one like it in your column--it might have saved me a ton of grief.

We met at a party. He told me his name, and made me spell it to make sure I would remember it. He asked if I wanted a drink. When I said, "I'd like a beer," he told me I would have to stop drinking beer if I wanted to hold his interest. He then asked how late he could call me. I said, "Midnight." He called at 1 a.m.

We started to date. Soon, he insisted we cut back on visiting my parents and my friends. They were "boring." Before I met his parents for the first time, he gave me orders--"Don't wear your best outfit. I don't want them to think you are extravagant or vain about your appearance, or clothes-crazy."

When things turned serious and he asked me to marry him, I said I would love to have an engagement ring. He said, "Engagement rings don't mean anything. They are just pieces of jewelry that women like to show off." He also refused to wear a wedding ring, saying, "Real men don't wear wedding rings." I thought that statement was odd. I knew several "real men" who wore wedding rings. Like a fool, I married him anyway.

After 20 years of being put down and belittled, I divorced him. Looking back, I can see the pattern of an emotional abuser. Please let your women readers know that men who belittle them are in a very real sense abusers. I realize now that I was the victim of such a man, and didn't even know it.

--Clear-Eyed at Last in Woodbridge

Thank you for pointing out that a controlling man is an emotional abuser. Too often, the woman is flattered that he is so interested in every facet of her life. When he becomes overbearing, she continues to hang on to him, because she is afraid of being alone.

If you see yourself in this letter, ask yourself that well-known Ann Landers question, "Are you better off with him, or without him?" An honest answer could save you a lifetime of grief.

Dear Ann Landers:

This incredible story appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. My son nearly fell out of his chair laughing when he read about this child who committed grand larceny. If you decide to share it with your readers, just sign me --

Frances in Lawrenceville, Ga.

What a hoot. Here's your story:

A 6-year-old boy, who slipped away from his day-care center in Fairfield, Ohio, managed to hot-wire a toy vehicle and drive it for a mile along a busy state highway. An alarmed motorist called police to say she was stunned to see a little boy driving a toy car alongside regular-size vehicles on the highway just outside Cincinnati. The child had apparently wandered away from the center, then spotted a mini truck-type toy parked outside a children's resale toy store. The surprised owner of the store said, "I had the wires unhooked to make sure no one could ride off in it, but apparently, the boy reconnected the wires without anyone seeing him, removed the price tag, and rode away."

That's some story! And now, this is Ann weighing in with some unsolicited advice for the lad's parents. Any 6-year-old who can reconnect wires in a disabled toy vehicle and drive it down a highway is a potential candidate for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I hope you will look into this, and enroll him.

Questions may be sent to: Ann Landers, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, Calif. 90045.

(c) 1999, Creators Syndicate