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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My son (I'll call him Earl) was married in Palm Beach to a girl he has lived with for some time. Her family is quite wealthy. The wedding was elaborate and must have cost more than $75,000. Earl's mother, my ex-wife who is also quite wealthy, and I hosted the rehearsal dinner for 80 guests and shared the nearly $4,000 in expenses. My present wife, our daughter who is a junior in college on scholarship and full financial aid, and I flew in from our home in Los Angeles for the ceremony. We sacrificed to attend and give the newlyweds a cash wedding gift. Our total cost for the occasion was more than $5,000.

My home and business were destroyed in the earthquake in 1994 and my wife and I have been struggling ever since.

My problem: Earl is a talented rock musician. His dream is to have a career in music, and he has asked me to give him money for expensive equipment for a studio he intends to build in his home. His 30th birthday is in late November.

I don't know how to handle this. I want to help him. Don't tell me to co-sign with him for a loan because when I did that before, I ended up paying the whole amount. Part of me says, why didn't they spend our wedding gift for the studio or opt for a smaller wedding and use some of that money for their future?

As a divorced father, all I was ever asked to provide for my son was money, and this seems to be the ongoing scenario. What should I do? -- EMBARRASSED IN L.A.

DEAR EMBARRASSED: If you are considering going into debt to come through with the birthday gift your son is soliciting, I urge you to reconsider.

You are overdue for a loving but frank talk with Earl about the financial facts of life. At 30, he's old enough to arrange other financing to advance his career.

DEAR ABBY: Regarding the 19-year-old bride-to-be who resented being asked her age: The insensitive comments made to her by others had nothing to do with how old she looked. They were meant to suggest that she was making a big mistake because she was too young to be contemplating marriage. While statistics support the increased fragility of early marriages, those insensitive people should have trusted that "Irritated" and her fiancé had discussed the pros and cons and made a mutual decision to marry.

If some people believe that 19- and 20-year-olds are too young to take this important step, my advice to them is to keep their doubts to themselves, and wish the engaged couple the best of luck.

In the meantime, "Irritated" could just smile and respond, "Yes, we are young, but that means we'll have more happy years together." -- ROBIN CAUSEBECK, ROCKFORD, ILL.

DEAR READERS: I would like to pass along a lesson in life that is well worth remembering:

An old philosophical fable tells us there once lived a lion who was so self-confident and ferocious that he devoured a bull. Having succeeded in this incredible feat gave him such confidence that he roared.

A hunter heard the lion's roar and promptly shot him. The moral of that fable is abundantly clear: "If you are full of bull -- keep your mouth shut."

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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