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Q: While I was growing up, my parents made fun of and belittled me. Everything I said was either "ridiculous" or wrong in some way. I was teased at school by the other children, and my parents wondered aloud what I was doing wrong to cause them to tease me. I was told to "grow a thicker skin" or "get over it." No one seemed to understand how much it hurt being picked on all the time.

Over the years, I have learned to look the other way when I feel bad because I know most people probably don't mean it. Last week, however, I defended myself against a co-worker who took everything I said and turned it into a joke. We were with a group of people, and everything I said seemed to be simply hilarious. I was embarrassed and hurt because when I asked her to stop, she just laughed and said, "I can't help it! You leave yourself wide open!"

I became very angry and told her she should hang out with some of the others who like to joke that way, and that not everyone thinks her kind of humor is funny.

I ran into her the next day, and when I greeted her, her response was, "Frankly, after your little outburst, I have nothing to say to you!" She hasn't spoken to me in a week. Now I feel guilty for having spoken up. I plan to write her a letter of apology. I never intended to return the hurt she was giving me - just to make her aware of how she made me feel.

Was I wrong to say anything to her in public, as she was doing to me? Do I owe her an apology, or was I justified? I feel her behavior was immature, and I'm not the only one she does it to. I just wanted her to stop, not destroy a relationship with an otherwise nice person. Your thoughts, please?

"Lily" in North Dakota

A: Do not write your co-worker an apology. She is the one who should have apologized to you - immediately - when you asked her (nicely) to stop ridiculing you. She is not a nice person, she is a bully - and I'll bet the other people she has ridiculed were cheering you on.

Interesting, isn't it, that when you called her on her rude behavior she became hypersensitive? A person who dishes it out should be able to take it - and frankly, you showed better manners under the circumstances than most people would have.

Don't fall for her tricks

Q: I just learned through a good friend of mine that "someone" sent out a mass e-mail to all my friends complaining that she wasn't invited to my wedding. Abby, this person is a friend of a friend. I do not have her phone number, e-mail, address, etc., and we haven't seen or spoken to each other in more than two years.

I never enjoyed hanging out with her because she loved to lay guilt trips over every little thing. This is just another classic example. How should I handle her behavior?

Anonymous in Nebraska

A: Ignore the mass e-mail. The person you describe may have emotional problems, one of them being a fixation on you. You are under no obligation to invite this person to your wedding. And if she pops into your life in the future, avoid her. She's trouble.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips.

Universal Press Syndicate