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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm 27 years old. When I was 18, I got married because my girlfriend was pregnant. We're now divorced, and my son lives with me because my ex refused to be responsible for him. She ran off with her new boyfriend.

I have just learned that my son isn't really my son after all. My ex finally admitted to me that she had always known he wasn't mine, and that his real father died of a drug overdose in 1996. A DNA test will prove it this week.

I'm extremely frustrated because I don't feel I should have to take care of a child who isn't even mine. I love the boy, but I don't feel he's my responsibility anymore. I was tricked into being his father. I wouldn't have taken the job had I known eight years ago that he was someone else's.

We have a very close relationship and I take good care of him, but I would like to live my life for myself and do what I want when I want -- like his mother does. I can't do that because he's my responsibility.

I know he needs me and loves me, and I'm afraid of what it would do to him if I sent him to live with his mother so I could live my life. I'm so confused, Abby. Can you give me any advice so I can compromise my desires and his needs? -- USED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR USED: The last thing you should do is send the boy to live with a woman who has already proven she's an unfit mother.

You are young, and you're feeling overwhelmed with responsibility. However, quitting is not an option, and I doubt you could live with yourself if you tried it.

You need time for yourself -- every single parent does. If at all possible, arrange for relatives or close friends with children to invite your son to stay with them for an evening or a weekend once or twice a month.

Another alternative would be to find a single-parent support group in your area. Parents Without Partners is a good one. You can contact the organization by calling (800) 637-7974 or visiting the Web site:

DEAR ABBY: When my beloved transferred pictures and cards to a new wallet, he found a clipping from an old Dear Abby column. He'd carried it for ages. Unfortunately, it is tattered, frayed and worn away around the folds.

Abby, please reprint it. We would like to share this philosophy with others in our crowd. We celebrated our 80th birthdays this year. Sign us ... STILL IN LOVE IN TEXAS

DEAR STILL: I've received several requests to reprint that letter. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Please explain the difference between "making love" and "having sex." A lot of people confuse these two very different acts. Will you please define each one? -- JUST PLAIN BILL

DEAR BILL: In "having sex," the name of the game is sexual gratification. It's a selfish, physical exercise in which the partner can be a faceless object. (Anyone will do.)

In "making love," one is motivated by a desire to give pleasure, express deep affection and communicate one's feelings of caring. It's the ultimate in sharing. In "making love," the partner must be a very special person. (No one else will do.)

Love is a metropolis. Sex is a whistle-stop.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Have a Merry Christmas, but keep in mind: If you're drinking, don't drive; if you're driving, don't drink.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in a two-booklet set. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $7.90 per set ($9 per set in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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