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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 20 years old, have been married for a year and a half, and have a 3-month-old son. We don't have much money and are struggling to get by.

Last week a friend of my mother's called and said, "Let's go to lunch. I want to see your new baby." I assumed it would be her treat. Imagine my embarrassment when I was asked for "my share" of the check. All I had with me was $5. My mother put in the rest.

Had I known I'd be expected to pay for my lunch, I would have suggested that she stop by my house to see the baby.

Was I wrong to assume that she'd be treating me to lunch? -- EMBARRASSED

DEAR EMBARRASSED: No. Since she invited you to lunch, she should have paid for it. However, some people make a practice of going "Dutch" and assume that everyone else understands.

Before accepting an invitation, leave nothing to chance. Ask, "Are we going Dutch?"

DEAR ABBY: I'm an avid reader and respect your opinion, which prompts me to write this letter. I am 31, and for three years I have been dating "Tom," who is 11 years older than I am. We have a fantastic relationship and can usually work out our differences. Recently we've been discussing marriage.

Tom has two daughters from a previous marriage. "Angie," the 21-year-old, does not live with him. "Michelle" is 18, a senior in high school, and will be leaving for college in the fall. Their mother is still living, and I am not attempting to take her place.

Tom and I attend all Michelle's functions together, and I praise her when she excels in something, but after three years, she has not warmed up to me. I don't mind her cool treatment, because she is always respectful and courteous.

If Tom and I marry, I would prefer that Michelle not address me by my first name.

What is the appropriate way for children to address their stepparent? (By the way, Angie is very fond of me and we get along great.) Tom and I have agreed to abide by whatever you suggest. -- TEXAS READER

DEAR READER: Since Tom's daughters are adults, and only slightly younger than you, they might be uncomfortable calling you "Mom." And to call you "Mrs. so-and-so" would be too formal.

The two remaining options: Your first name, or a mutually agreed-upon nickname.

DEAR ABBY: Can you please help me decide what to do? I am 60 years old and have adult children.

I want to write a journal of my life, but there are a few shocking things in my family's past. How much should I tell my children? Or should I leave the family skeletons in the closet? I've been worrying about this for a long time. -- MRS. "O"

DEAR MRS. "O": How much of your life you choose to reveal is a decision that only you can make; however, I urge you to think carefully before revealing information that could hurt family members.

Above all, whatever you disclose in your journal must be the truth.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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