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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Works Hard to Polish Her Tarnished Reputation

DEAR ABBY: When I was in high school and college, I was very promiscuous. I'm only 19 and have already had more than 10 sex partners. Because of this I have lost many friends, and at this point, I have no one to turn to.

I am changing now and have made some modifications in my life to raise my self-esteem. I know now that when I was younger, in order to feel wanted, I was willing to do anything to get attention. I now feel better about myself, but I'm finding it difficult to live down my bad reputation. People seem to have a hard time forgiving and forgetting.

Abby, I don't want to have to move. I just want people to accept me as I am now. Any suggestions how I can lose my past? -- REPENTED IN OREGON

DEAR REPENTED: Your situation reminds me of a saying I heard many years ago: "A woman's virtue is like a fine painting. Once its authenticity is questioned, it's never quite the same." People have long memories -- and they love to talk -- so even though you have turned over a new leaf, it could take many years to live down your past. Starting over in a new location would be easier, faster and probably more effective.

DEAR ABBY: What is the protocol for a young woman who has a wedding shower and two weeks later postpones her wedding? How does she go about notifying the people who attended the shower? And what should be done with the gifts? -- MR. WONDERING

DEAR MR. WONDERING: A brief note from the bride-to-be, explaining to the shower guests that the wedding has been postponed, should suffice.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about the rest of the scenario. Courtesy and common sense should prevail. If a wedding is canceled, unused gifts should be returned with a brief note. Since a postponement is not a cancellation, only a delay, the gifts need not be returned. However, if the postponement is expected to be a matter of many months, with little realistic expectation that the wedding will ever take place, the gifts should be returned.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a longtime fan, and have often thought of thanking you for your commitment to the needs of children. This letter is especially prompted by a recent column in which you quoted the verse, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I agree with you that "nothing could be further from the truth."

Several years ago, I was teaching a lesson in a first-grade classroom. We were talking about how words can hurt worse than being hit. I used the same "sticks and stones" quote, and a shy little girl raised her hand. She said she had made up a different ending. This is what she said: "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can break your heart."

It is a moment I will never forget and reminded me once again how privileged I am to work with children. -- SHERI WINKLEMAN, COUNSELOR, SPRINGFIELD, ORE.

DEAR SHERI: The child's words were profound. From the mouths of babes ...

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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