Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 14-year-old boy. I went to a party last weekend and some people pressured me to do some uncomfortable stuff. Can you advise me -- and other teens -- how to handle peer pressure? -- ASHAMED IN ILLINOIS

DEAR ASHAMED: I'll try. Please remember that it takes a strong and confident person not to follow the crowd and stick to your own convictions -- especially when you want to fit in. But it is those who value their self-respect more than "mob" respect, who care about their reputations (and their records) who summon up the courage to say, "Thanks, but I'll pass," when enticed into doing things that are senseless, dangerous, illegal or immoral. It takes character to go it alone rather than follow the crowd, to listen to your conscience and act in your own best interests -- but it pays off big time, especially when you see the price others pay for going astray.

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DEAR ABBY: I'm 31 and live in the Midwest. I have had the same friends since college and feel myself drifting farther and farther away from them. I feel guilty saying this, but all they want to talk about is their children. I have a wonderful 3-year-old daughter and another child on the way, but I have my own personality, too, apart from being a mother.

When I talk to these friends I'm pretty sure they don't listen or want to respond to me unless I'm talking about "kid stuff." Hanging out with them has become duller than watching paint dry. Am I the strange one because I don't want to talk about my little ones all the time? -- FEELS LIKE A FREAK IN IOWA

DEAR FEELS LIKE A FREAK: Right now, your friends are preoccupied with raising their children, with all of the milestones and cute things they do that go along with it. Eventually, they'll pull out of it. Please don't label them or yourself. What you need to do is recognize that it's time to widen your circle to include more people who share your varied interests.

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DEAR ABBY: I am getting ready to meet my gentleman's ex-wife. They were married for 17 years. His adult children all know and like me.

Any suggestions on breaking the ice and points of conversation with this woman? -- LOIS IN LOUISIANA

DEAR LOIS: Only this: Keep your sense of humor when you discuss what you have in common.

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DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been married three years. We married later in life. I was divorced, and she had been a widow for eight years.

The problem we're having is she continues to want to spend the holidays with her deceased husband's family. They are nice people, but I feel uncomfortable with it. We have talked about starting our own traditions, but she insists that she doesn't want to cut those ties. I feel like I am living with a ghost sometimes.

I have spoken to other members of her family. They have agreed that she needs to cut those ties, but my wife is being stubborn about changing her holiday routine. Your thoughts on this, please? -- LIVING WITH A GHOST IN KANSAS

DEAR LIVING WITH A GHOST: I don't know how long your wife was married before she was widowed, but it is possible that it was so long that she became a part of her in-laws' family, and you should not take that away from her. The solution to your problem lies in compromise. Not every holiday should be spent with them -- but that doesn't mean the two of you couldn't alternate. And that's what I recommend you do until you establish different traditions.

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For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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