DEAR ABBY: I will be 50 next year. My daughter is determined to throw me a party, but I'm not interested in acknowledging my age. In fact, thinking about it throws me into a panic.

I realize this is my problem, but how can I make her understand that this is something I truly do not want and I won't attend? She thinks I'm joking. -- 49 AND HOLDING

DEAR HOLDING: Your daughter is well-meaning but insensitive. Because you can't make her comprehend that birthdays have different connotations for different people, and that you prefer to "forget" about this one, plan an enjoyable getaway for yourself the week that yours rolls around and leave town. And every time you feel yourself going into a panic, practice this mantra: 50 is the new 30. Once you make up your mind to accept it, then you -- like so many others -- will believe it and calm down. Aging is normal. It's stress that's the killer.

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DEAR ABBY: I recently inherited some money. The amount is enough to allow me to leave a job I find stifling and set up my own business without having to worry about money for the first year.

I am excited about it, but I'm getting nothing but doom and disapproval from my family. My husband says he supports me, but has confided that he's afraid I'm going to plunge us into poverty. My parents and siblings tell me I'm being irresponsible and wasting money I could be investing for retirement. They remind me of how many small businesses fail and tell me I'm "crazy" to leave a secure job.

I want to take advantage of this opportunity, but my family's attitude is starting to make me doubt myself. Am I naive and irresponsible? -- AMBITIOUS IN AUSTRALIA

DEAR AMBITIOUS: No, you're a woman with a dream. And that's OK. Until a century ago, nobody thought man could fly, and now we've struck water on the moon.

HOWEVER, just to cover your bases and see if your dream is practical, write a business plan and take it to a bank to see if they would be willing to lend you money to start your business. If the answer is yes, I see no reason why you shouldn't invest in yourself (at zero interest).

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DEAR ABBY: I am 30 and have been dating my girlfriend, "Megan," for a few months. She's 22. I'm in love with her, but I can't seem to get something out of my head.

Megan told me she is bisexual. She says she has never been with a woman, but she's attracted to them. I was in this situation before. My last girlfriend left me for another woman, and I'm afraid it'll happen again. I love Megan and would like to spend the rest of my life with her, but I'm afraid she may one day decide she missed out on something and want to pursue other options.

Megan swears she wouldn't cheat on me with anyone -- man or woman. Should I end this now, before we go any further, or am I being paranoid and worrying for nothing? -- CONFUSED IN RHODE ISLAND

DEAR CONFUSED: Megan has been honest with you. She's also 22, and she may not be sure of exactly who she is. Until she's certain about what she wants, it is premature of you to be considering a permanent relationship. At 30, you are ready to settle down. Megan may need time and the freedom to do some exploring before she will be.

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