Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am a single mother of a wonderful 7-year-old boy I'll call Jeremy. Jeremy's father, "Darren," has not been involved in his life since Jeremy was 15 months old. Although Darren provides financial support, he has not been there emotionally for Jeremy in 5 1/2 years. Jeremy doesn't even remember him.

My son is now at the age where he is beginning to question where his father is and why he isn't around. Darren chose to step out of his son's life with no explanation other than he didn't want to be involved with him. (I had already moved on.)

I have not remarried, and I have not introduced Jeremy to any man I have dated. What is the best way to let my son know all he needs to know about why his dad isn't around without hurting his feelings, or making him feel unloved? "I don't know where he is" just isn't working anymore. Jeremy wants to know details. Help! -- LOVING MOTHER IN TENNESSEE

DEAR LOVING MOTHER: Explain to Jeremy that his father's absence has nothing to do with him. Tell your son that some men are good at being parents, while others never learn -- and his father is one of those. As Jeremy matures, you can fill in more of the details. But it's important that your son understand that the problem was never that he was unlovable -- but rather that his father never learned how to love.

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DEAR ABBY: My daughter and son-in-law were married on the beach in a beautiful setting in Mexico last March. Several of our family and friends were in attendance.

The other day, I asked my daughter why she hadn't changed her name to her new married name, as she has said she will be using her husband's name. She explained that although they were married in Mexico, their marriage certificate is valid only in Mexico, and she'll have to wait for her translated certificate in order to change her identification here.

The kids forwarded all their information two months prior to being married, had blood tests in Mexico (a requirement), and paid for a wedding. Since they have a Mexican certificate stating they are married, why does she have to wait to receive another type of document? My question: Are they married or not married here? -- BEFUDDLED IN BUCKINGHAM, PA.

DEAR BEFUDDLED: According to the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder's office, your daughter and son-in-law's Mexican marriage is recognized anywhere. If she wants to use her husband's name, all she has to do is notify the Department of Motor Vehicles, credit card companies, etc. of the name change.

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DEAR ABBY: When we go out to dinner with another couple, what is the proper way to handle the bill? My husband and I are frequently invited to join other couples at a restaurant for dinner.

We always assume the bill will be split among the couples. If we ask another couple out, are we required to pay the tab?

Last weekend, we invited "John and Mary" to dinner and we were stuck with a $250 bill. They never mentioned the bill, nor the $50 tip we left. -- JEN IN TOWNSEND, DEL.

DEAR JEN: Couples usually discuss this before the meal or when the check arrives. Because John and Mary said nothing, you or your husband should have suggested splitting the check.

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