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

by Abigail Van Buren

Doing Right Thing Doesn't Necessarily Mean Marriage

DEAR ABBY: I have a son who met a girl at work. One thing led to another, and now she is pregnant. This relationship is about two months old.

He has told me on several occasions that he does not love her but wants to do the "right" thing. Should a man marry just to give the child a name when in reality he would rather not? -- SOON TO BE A GRANDPA

DEAR SOON: Doing the "right" thing does not necessarily mean marrying a girl he doesn't love and impregnated accidentally. There are other ways your son can fulfill his obligation. If your son is certain that he is the father, his name can be put on the baby's birth certificate -- which means he will be obligated to provide child support until the child reaches adulthood.

Perhaps when your son and this girl get to know each other better, they will decide they care enough about each other to make a lifetime commitment. But to marry in haste would, in my opinion, only compound their mistake.

DEAR ABBY: "Harriet From Tampa's" advice about having elderly relatives record their memories for future generations is wonderful. As the family historian and genealogist, I know how valuable these personal histories can be.

However, I'm asking you to remind your readers that magnetic media are surprisingly fragile. Recording artists and engineers have gone back to the studio only to discover that tapes made as recently as 30 years ago are flaking away and worthless. Cassette tapes that sit on a shelf untouched for decades develop "dropouts" for no reason. Media preferences change, too -- many children growing up today have no idea what to do with a vinyl phonograph record, and the same fate could befall today's audio- and videocassettes.

By all means, have Aunt Edna record her history. But if she gives you an audio recording, make sure you transcribe it right away as a backup. And if you use a word processor, print the file. A computer file will last only as long as today's word processor, and the hard drive is a magnetic medium as well, making it as vulnerable as audiotape. The paper might yellow, but it stands a better chance of surviving the centuries than tapes and computer disks.

And while you're printing the file, make several copies and send them to various relatives who might also be interested in saving them for posterity. Some will inevitably be destroyed, but the more copies that are made, the more likely one will be preserved. -- CHARLES O'REILLY, RUTHERFORD, N.J.

DEAR CHARLES: I hope families who are interested in preserving their family histories will take your advice. Technology has taken a giant leap in the last 100 years. It's ironic, however, that the most reliable way of preserving the information is still on paper -- a "technology" that was perfected 2,000 years ago.

DEAR ABBY: In a recent column, you had two quotations concerning "you know you are getting old when --." You might be interested in the one my brother uses:

"You know you're getting old when the policeman on the corner looks like a teen-ager." -- EDSON M. TENNANT, BYRON, CALIF.

DEAR EDSON: Right. And I have another one for you: "You know you're getting old when the derelicts look young."

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600