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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a concerned parent. My daughter's best friend here in California has been writing and receiving mail from a prisoner in San Quentin. She is 14, and the young man she's corresponding with is 17. Worse yet, she wants to marry him. She had him living with her for two weeks last November when he got out of prison.

My husband learned the young man was breaking probation, and he was sent back to prison. How do you deal with teen-aged girls writing and visiting men in prison? -- CONCERNED PARENT IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR CONCERNED: Were I the girl's parent, I would have notified the warden at San Quentin that one of his "guests" was corresponding with an underage girl and I wanted it stopped! Frankly, I am shocked that the parents of your daughter's friend would allow such a living arrangement. A 14-year-old girl is too easily manipulated. Read on for a letter from a woman who was older -- and should have been wiser:

DEAR ABBY: Not long ago I began seeing a man who seemed to be the most caring, generous person. The relationship moved quickly, and we began to discuss moving in together. Friends expressed concern about the speed of events, but I felt it was love at first sight. This in itself was exciting, as I have always been a bit overweight and this nice-looking man was showing a great deal of interest in me.

A few things kept this from being absolutely perfect: He owned few possessions other than clothes, he was living with a relative at no cost, he didn't own a vehicle, he was having to spend quite a bit of time in court, and he drank a bit more than I normally felt comfortable with. He attributed all of this to his ex-fiance, who, he explained, had set him up on false charges. (I had offered to accompany him to court for moral support, but he didn't want me exposed to this "vicious woman.")

I believed him because what would this sweet man possibly have done to deserve any of what he had gone through? It also would have meant that I wasn't as desirable as I had been feeling lately.

Had someone told me what I heard for myself, I would never have believed him capable of such ruthlessness. One evening, I overheard him tell a "bar buddy" that he was looking at some serious jail time, and he needed someone to make deposits into his jail account and to visit him. He also commented that he didn't have a lot of time and he couldn't be as selective as he would like. I was devastated -- for what did that say about me?

I have been blessed with some very understanding friends and a great counselor. Let me share with you what I have found:

1. It says NOTHING about me. It says HE was a creep, the kind few of us can relate to or comprehend.

2. Quick involvement is a red flag for potential problems -- possibly even abuse.

3. Anyone can file a complaint against someone, but the police have to have a good reason to arrest someone on that complaint. With the person's name and birthdate, you can get information concerning that person's arrest record and, in most non-felony cases, you may even be able to get a police report. (I discovered that two of the incidents occurred while we were seeing each other, and one he even admitted to the police.)

This man chose me because of my lack of self-esteem. The most important thing people -- especially women -- need to work toward is knowing what we are worth and not accepting less. It will make us far less vulnerable to con men such as the one with whom I was involved. -- NICK OF TIME IN DENVER

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.)

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