Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Our 17-year-old daughter, "Marcie," is going steady with "Brad." They are both seniors in high school.

During Marcie's junior year, she ran with the wrong crowd, made some bad decisions about smoking and drinking and, yes, even sex. She was very honest with Brad, and now he is being verbally abusive -- throwing her past in her face and making her feel like dirt. She quit smoking and drinking, but there's nothing she can do about her virginity. After being with Brad, she comes home and cries because he makes her feel so cheap and dirty. They fight all the time about it. He acts like her judge and jury.

What can I do? She says she's in love with him. He's the second boy she's gone with who's been verbally abusive. It took Marcie a year to get over the first one.

How can I help her? She doesn't want me or her dad to talk to Brad or his parents about this. I'm so worried about her. Please help. -- OHIO MOM

DEAR MOM: I know you love your daughter and would do anything to help her, but this is one job Marcie has to do herself. She needs to forgive herself and rebuild her self-esteem. She should not permit anyone to degrade her, or make her feel cheap.

Marcie has made some mistakes (who hasn't?); now she needs to respect herself enough to say goodbye to anyone who tries to degrade her. No family member can help Marcie. Get her into counseling. If her school has no counselors, try your local department of family services or United Way.

DEAR ABBY: A mother wrote to you in agitation over her gay daughter's "lifestyle." I am writing in agitation over the use of that word -- as if it is used to describe continually bizarre and abnormal behavior.

Abby, like all the rest, we are born, we live our lives, and then we die. Along the way we go to school, to work, to church, we are sick and we are well, we are happy and we are sad, we pay taxes and give to charity, we enjoy family and friends, we buy cars and houses and books, we watch TV and go to the movies, we play golf and football and bridge, we go to offices and factories and farms, we vote and we volunteer, we worry about money and politics, and we are tired at the end of the day. Some of us love another of the same sex. It would seem so small a thing, like the color of the skin, in such a wide, wide world.

Will you gently chide your readers, Abby, that we are all far more alike than we are different? -- NORTH CHATHAM, N.Y.

DEAR NORTH CHATHAM: Your chiding is identical to my philosophy.

CONFIDENTIAL TO J.N. IN BALTIMORE: Go for it! "Fortune is a prize to be won. Adventure is the road to it. Chance is what may lurk in the shadows at the roadside." Those are the words of one William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry. (Surprise!)

By popular request, Abby shares more of her favorite prize-winning, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600